Saturday 29 September 2012

US, Israel in "full agreement" on nuclear Iran

Updated 4 minutes ago
Obama, Netanyahu hold Iran nuclear talks

After being criticised for not meeting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York earlier this week, the White House has revealed president Barack Obama has spoken to him on the phone.

The White House says the two leaders are in full agreement on the "shared goal" of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The conversation came as the United States removed an Iranian opposition group from its list of designated terror groups.

The White House said two men spoke for 20 minutes after a colourful United Nations speech by the Israeli leader, where he held up a picture of a lit bomb and drew a red line to underscore his push for a clearer ultimatum to be delivered to Tehran.

During his speech to the 193-member UN assembly, Mr Netanyahu did not mention Israel's threats to stage a unilateral attack, but said Iran's uranium enrichment plants were a credible "target".

Israel's prime minister Netanyahu points to a red line he draw on a graph of a bomb used to represent Iran's nuke program

"At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs - and that's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program," he said.

Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu "underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," said a White House statement. They "took note of the close cooperation and coordination" between the United States and Israel on "the threat posed by Iran" and agreed to continue regular consultations, the statement added.

The two have had an awkward relationship, particularly over how far to go against Iran. But Netanyahu welcomed Obama's vow at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to "do what we must" to stop an Iranian bomb, the White House said. White House officials say they agreed to continue regular consultations.
Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has also spoken to Mr Netanyahu.

Without naming Israel or the US, Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Friday his country has been a victim of "nuclear terrorism". Mr Salehi said the Security Council, which has passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran's uranium enrichment, should stop using nuclear weapons fears "as a pretext to act as a legislative body".

'Terror' group de-listed

The US has announced the removal of an Iranian opposition group based abroad, the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, from its blacklist of designated terror groups after years of intense lobbying.

The move, ending a complex legal battle fought through US and European courts, came just days ahead of an October 1 deadline set by a US appeals court by which secretary of state Hillary Clinton had to decide on the fate of the group.

"The secretary of state has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist," the State Department said in a statement.

"Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of US persons will no longer be blocked, and US entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license."
The MEK, whose leadership is based in Paris, has invested much money and years of intense lobbying to be taken off the list.

The left-wing group was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, and after the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted him it took up arms against Iran's clerical rulers.

In a statement the head of the group, Maryam Rajavi, "welcomed and appreciated" the decision. "This has been the correct decision, albeit long overdue, in order to remove a major obstacle in the path of the Iranian people's efforts for democracy," Ms Rajavi said. "In the days and months ahead, we hope to better introduce ourselves and our goals to international community and the American people." But in its note about delisting the MEK, the State Department stressed that it had not forgotten the group's militant past. "With today's actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of US citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on US soil in 1992," it said. "The department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organisation, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members."

The United States designated it a "foreign terrorist organisation" in 1997, putting it in a category that includes Al Qaeda, the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah. The State Department deems the MEK responsible for the deaths of Iranians as well as US soldiers and civilians from the 1970s into 2001.

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